This is not a news, Facebook has been criticized by German politicians for not censoring Facebook comments, or for not giving the right tools to censor comments on the own fan pages at Facebook. Currently all known German politicians battle with the ever-increasing amount of negative comments on their pages, and while it’s true, you can find hate speech, the majority of the comments are not hateful but written by people with justified worries and question. When Merkel talked with Zuckerberg, she probably didn’t ask for better moderation tools on Facebook pages to be able to delete the hate speech comments only, she most likely does also want to delete the majority of negative but legit and non hateful comments.
It’s actually no wonder that there is demand for better moderation tools, because if you take a look at Merkel’s Facebook page, you get a clear impression what German citizens think about her politics, and you will have a very hard time to find comments that compliment her, and that is simply not the picture she wants to sell the German citizens, how handy would it be there if you could censor every critical comment, not just hateful comments?
German politicians like Merkel do get around 20.000 comments per entry they publish on their Facebook pages, and it’s quite difficult to find a comment that compliments what our politicians are doing, and it clearly shows why they start to ask for moderation tools. The reason why so many younger Germans don’t watch TV anymore is because journalists and politicians are in cahoots together, and the TV is not a medium where we can interact with the creators of the blatant propaganda that they send into our living rooms, which is why more and more people prefer to use mediums where it is possible, where they can raise their voices, where they can tell politicians about their problems, and that happens in the internet.
In 2013, Merkel said the internet is “Neuland”, which means something like “New land”, she said that one or two decades after most people had internet access for the first time, that was a real running gag when she implied that the internet is like new land that needs to be discovered. Up to this day, people use it against her and say that they are not surprised that she has a problem with the democratic way the internet works. But she will have to get used to it, even if she gets her moderation tools, this will not stop citizens to connect with each other, to speak about the problems that are caused by our government.
I clearly understand the need for moderation tools, to be honest, if I wouldn’t be able to moderate my blogs comment section, it would be full of junk comments and in some cases even hateful comments that I dislike too. There is a clear difference between hate speech and critique, what I never want to do is censoring comments of people who disagree with whatever I just wrote, I can take critique and respect other opinions. Do I trust our politicians to make that difference too? No, I don’t, they have shown that they don’t think democratic, they have shown that they refuse to listen to the fears we citizens have, they deny every problems citizens mention, and on top of that, they do call citizens liars or use other bad terms, an attempt to muzzle people, to show there is only one way to think.
This is the reason why I hope that Merkel doesn’t get the tools to remove comments, I do actually feel “Schadenfreude” when I see that 20.000 comments per entry on her page teach her something about reality, negative comments about her politics, and comments that get over 10.000 upvotes by other people. It’s refreshing to see the massive amount of critique on her page, it’s refreshing to see the same on every news article about German politics, it’s so pleasant to find out that the discrepancy between people and politicians is not only visible in my circles, it makes me happy that people like her get a clear message.
I do agree, free speech doesn’t mean you are allowed to practice hate speech, but if politicians draw that line so close that people with real problems and meaningful questions are already called haters, if politicians do cause fear on a psychological way, to inhibit that people express critique, then I must say the politicians are the real haters in this case, haters of free speech. At the end, it wouldn’t change a lot if they get better moderation tools, there are enough other ways to make the own opinion public and people will make use of them, I am pretty sure.